How to Be an Intentional Student for Engineering Brilliance

Plus Why Multi-Tasking is a Highway Straight to Crappiness

For many of us, university is the first time we’re adulting proper. We might live on our own and pretty much decide for ourselves what we’ll do and when. Pretty liberating, right?

With all this new-found freedom, we launch into anything and everything shiny.

Why not try it out? Explore! Experiment! Huzzah!

And we should try stuff out and keep an open, spontaneous mind about this life business. But if we’re not paying attention for too long, our existence will quickly become one big shiny distraction party.

Did someone say party?! Er—wait, I have to study a little bit more…. Tomorrow. Let’s go!

Hold the phone—is that a new game? I have to try it!

Just a sec, my friend is texting…. Okay, grab your keys! We’re heading to the field!

me when i try to say no clawing eyes out

Now, we’re not here to rain on your hyper parade or tell you what to do, but we will tell you that you should care about what you do and don’t do. Grownups call it being intentional.

We call it owning your own life.

If you follow every lead, squirrel, or shiny thing that comes your way, you’re not exactly owning it. You’re just flitting around aimlessly. Or following what others do or what you should do or crappy advice. And that can be fun for a while.

You might also consider being a little bit more selective and see how that feels, too.

Because in doing it all, you are missing out, too.

I (singular is Lacy today, cutie pie!) spent years, years moving from one great thing to the next, never stopping to reflect until one moment I looked around and realized I didn’t really know where I was. (Metaphorically speaking…. I have the physically tracking ability of a carrier pigeon.)

The thing is it’s so easy to say yes!

So how to learn to start saying no? Or stop always doing and pause to think for a minute? And why would you really want to, anyway?

I could get all excited, waving my hands around about how great being is instead of doing all the time, but really you should just try it for yourself. If you hate it, then you know. If you love it, then you know. Knowledge is power. Blah-blah-blah.

But, seriously, give yourself a week to try out the following tips and see how you feel afterwards.

The Top 5 Anti-Distraction, Single-Tasking, Thinking-Not-Doing Tips

1Disconnect at least once a day

Turn it all off or at least silence it. This goes double if you’re trying to actually use that big brain of yours. The world can wait.

2Write down a list of things you want out of the next month. Call it your List of Heck Yeah.

Free style it. Don’t overthink. Just jot down everything that comes to mind that would be cool, or helpful, or amazing if it happened over the next month.

When your list is done, go back and cross out everything that someone else told you to do, everything that you feel like you should do (but don’t really care about), and stuff that you know you’re 99% likely to regret doing.

3As things come up, refer to your List of Heck Yeah

And ask yourself:

  • Does the activity or task align with your Yeahs? Rock on!

  • Should it be added? Consider adding it.

  • Is it out of alignment with Oh Yeah and not really worth adding? Say no. Nicely and completely unapologetically.

4Do nothing and stare at the ceiling, wall, or fan at least once a day.

Pause, force yourself to get horizontal for a minute, and just zone out. Breathe. Get comfortable with not doing. (Or, if you’re like me, use all of your willpower to resist the urge to jump off the couch and do something every 5 seconds until the urges stop.)

5Plan time for yourself each week and guard it vigilantly.

Even, and especially, during exam times you need to take a break. And we don’t mean a break from the have-to’s to do more stuff. We mean a break without plans to do whatever you want in that moment. Maybe you want to run around, or zone out to your favorite soundtrack, or eat ridiculously slowly like you’re making sweet, sweet love to your mac and cheese.

happily run through the sprinklers every day

We don’t know what it is for you and you won’t know until you’re there. In that moment, you’ll know exactly what you need, so block off some time to allow it to happen.

There’s so much talk about self-care and mental wellness, as students, engineers, parents, whatevers.

At the end of the day, this is your life and you get to decide what to do with it.

If you’re busy racing around like a chicken with its head cut off, you’re gonna miss it and wake up with a wicked hangover one day. So, try these steps on for size and see how they fit.

Are you an intentional guru? Tell us your story about owning your life.

You got this!

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